Usher for 49ers as a youth, Seifert remains a fan SUPER BOWL XXIX

January 27, 1995|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Writer

MIAMI -- For George Seifert, coaching the San Francisco 49ers isn't just a job. It's a dream come true. He's not just another mercenary passing through. He's home.

He's a San Francisco native who went to high school across from old Kezar Stadium, where he was an usher back in the days of Y. A. Tittle.

That's why it's so special for Seifert to be coaching the 49ers on Sunday when they attempt to become the first team to win five Super Bowls.

The 49ers have such a reputation for winning that Seifert seems to be one of the few people who remembers when San Francisco was known as a flashy team that always managed to lose.

Founded in 1946 when they joined the old All-America Conference, the 49ers lost the final AAFC title game to the Cleveland Browns in their first playoff game in 1949, 21-7.

The next year, both teams joined the NFL and the Browns won the title. The 49ers, by contrast, didn't win a playoff game until 1970 and didn't win a Super Bowl until 1982.

To be a 49ers fan was to know frustration.

It helps explain Seifert's reaction after the 38-28 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC title game. He didn't talk about being on top. He talked about the days when the 49ers weren't on top.

"All the years and the times we've been to this game and the times we never got over the hump, remembering that game against Detroit where the 49ers were way ahead and lost the game. Then to win this thing, it goes back a few years, believe me," he said.

The Detroit game?

Only an old 49ers fan would understand the reference because it was played in 1957.

The 49ers led the Lions 27-7 in a playoff game at Kezar Stadium and lost, 31-27.

The memories were brought back by the back-to-back NFC title game losses to Dallas in 1992-93.

"To see that thing unfold [against Detroit], and to remember the hush over the city following that game, it was indescribable. To then go through that as a coach is particularly frustrating. Because it just reminds you of that thing over again. And then to see what took place [against Dallas this year], it vaults you to that opposite emotion," he said.

To Seifert, coaching the 49ers is like no other job.

"I have a love affair with this place. It's my home. It's unique that you can be the coach of your team."

He couldn't have imagined it happening in 1957 when he was 17. The next year, he went to college in Utah, where he got a degree in zoology and played guard and linebacker.

He started his coaching career at Utah, spent a season as a head coach at Westminster in Salt Lake City in 1965 and then made assistant coaching stops at Iowa and Oregon.

He returned to the Bay Area in 1972 as an assistant coach at Stanford. Except for two ill-fated years as head coach at Cornell in 1975-76, he's been in the Bay area ever since.

He learned one thing from the Cornell experience.

"You'd better win," he said.

The joke is he can beat the Cowboys, but he couldn't beat Harvard.

He returned to Stanford in 1977 under Bill Walsh and then joined him with the 49ers in 1980. When Walsh quit after the 1988 season, he was handed the head coaching job.

He learned that Cornell lesson well. All he's done is win.

His record in six years is 83-24 for a .776 winning percentage. Vince Lombardi is second at .733 (104-36-6).

It's hard to believe that there was speculation Seifert could be fired if he'd lost to Dallas. After the game, owner Eddie DeBartolo denied that.

"It would have been very, very disappointing if we would have gotten in a situation with Dallas and come up short again, but you just can't rest everything on one game. I just wouldn't have done that. The record speaks for itself," he said.

Maybe, maybe not. But it's noteworthy that DeBartolo said all that after the game.

For his part, Seifert doesn't concede the Dallas victory took any pressure off him.

"As long as you're in the business, the monkey is not off your back. I think we all realize this is a week-to-week, what-have-you-done-most-recently type of business. That's the jTC way it is and I'm not condemning that. That's part of the motivating force," he said.

He knows he can't afford to lose the Super Bowl to the underdog San Diego Chargers. "We have this game coming up, which is one of the pivotal games of my coaching career. It's extremely important," he said.

Seifert is a laid-back person, but he can be tough. He got rid of Charles Haley (who helped Dallas win two Super Bowls) when he got tired of Haley's off-the-field antics.

When there was discussion of Walsh returning as a front-office executive two years ago, Seifert nixed the idea. He knew Walsh would want to run the whole show again.

But Seifert has a good rapport with his players.

"I call him a player's coach," tackle Steve Wallace said. "But he doesn't like to be called that. He said those guys don't last too long."

Seifert's also extremely candid.

When the 49ers took a 21-0 lead against Dallas -- the third time in the past five games they jumped to a 21-0 lead -- Seifert conceded he was already thinking about his post-game speech.

"There are times when you actually practice what you're going to say to the team afterward when it looks like you're going to win. Those thoughts flash through your mind and you try to suppress them. . . . That's probably why you see no expression [on his face], there's just this big thing going on inside," he said.

Be it as a youthful 49ers fan or as their Super Bowl coach.

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